Museum Security Network

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Radicals in our Midst

I too was shocked by the three questions in the SAFE poll, the reaction was predictable. To reiterate: Question: “Should market countries stop buying antiquities from Egypt until order is restored?” there are three possible answers: No/ Yes/ Yes. Antiquities trade should stop, period. I voted for the second. Interestingly the 106 responses so far are fairly evenly spread. New York coin dealer Alfredo De La Fe sees something sinister in the third question (‘Need proof that the radical archaeology movement wants to end the antiquities market?’)Quite often you hear from apologists and members [of] the radical archaeology movement that they do not want to bring an end to the antiquities trade, they just want a “licit” market that is properly regulated. My argument has been that this is nothing but a lie so that they do not appear to be taking an extreme position. Want proof?I do not know whether the creator of the poll really had in mind when formulating this question. Whether it means the whole trade in Egyptian antiquities or other ones too. Whether they had in mind the whole antiquities market, or just the no-questions-asked bit where freshly looted stuff snuggles down among the decontextualised stuff the origins of which nobody cares to enquire about. Or did they really did mean every single documentable Grand Tour and turn of the twentieth century tourist trophy antiquity still in private hands. Neither do I know who are the forty-odd members of the public who so far have voted for this option, or what they think the question means. What I think it does show is that there is a certain degree of public disquiet about the way the antiquities market handles the issues of the sales of archaeological material, and the damaging lack of transparency.

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